A Very Long Rivalry – 1981

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Pre-1981 – As Brocka’s Bona toured the international festival, it looks like Nora was again in command with the acting contest and Vilma was content in making sure that her films were commercial success. By this time, Vilma’s tax problem has become a number one priority. No longer a teen pop star, both Nora and Vilma’s projects declined. It seems like yesterday, when in early 1970s both were releasing one or two films each month. Now, both have limited film projects and have to be selective to succeed at the box office.

Sign of Good Karma – “…In 1981, nanalong MMFF Best Actress si Vilma for Zialcita’s Karma, besting Nora’s multi-character portrayal in Maryo J. delos Reyes’ musical-drama Rock ‘N Roll. Vi, however, failed to win any other nomination for that starrer, while Nora went on to win a trophy (Catholic Mass Media Awards) and Best Actress nomination (Gawad Urian) for Mario O’Hara’s Bakit Bughaw ang Langit?…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

Nora Aunor’s Films (7): (Bakit Bughaw ang Langit?; Dalaga si Misis, Binata si Mister; Gaano Kita Kamahal; Ibalik ang Swerte; Kami’y Ifugao; Rock N’ Roll; Totoo Ba Ang Tsimis?) – Nora Aunor did seven films this year, three more than her rival Vilma. Although she won on total output, the quality of these films were questionable. The only film critics were raving were Mario O’Harra’s Bakit Bughaw.

Vilma Santos’ Films (4): (Pakawalan Mo Ako; Hiwalay; Karma; Ex-Wife) – Vilma Santos did only four films in 19881, two were mild hits, Hiwalay and Ex-wife, both melodramas. The other two were big hits, “Pakawalan Mo Ako,” was directed by Elwood Perez and the summer’s biggest hit while “Karma” directed by Danny Zialcita was a big hit at the local festival. Both films earned her an acting trophies.

Nora Aunor’s 1981 acting recognition (3) – Best Actress from Catholic Mass Media Awards and two nominations from FAMAS and Urian, all for “Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? .”

Vilma Santos’ 1981 acting recognition (3) – Best Actress from Metro Manil Film Festival and Cebu City Film Festival for “Karma”and Best Actress from FAMAS for “Pakawalan Mo Ako.”

Not Blue – “…O’Hara dwells on Aunor’s face, to suggest that she is not just amused, but actually intrigued. O’Hara, however, does not take the easy way out: he does not allow the relationship of Aunor and Roldan to become actually physical. If there is a sexual love between the two, it is too deep inside them to be articulated. True enough, there are some glaring mistakes. The most obvious occurs when Roldan utters that key line “Bakit bughaw ang langit?” The camera pans out to the sky as expected, but instead of the sky being clear and blue (which is what “bughaw” means), the sky is cloudy and white. The symbol is totally destroyed by such a simple cinematographic mistake. In fact, almost all of the mistakes in the film can be attributed to the cinematographer, who seems not to know how to light a set. Night scenes appear brighter than day scenes, light filtering into houses has no clear sources, camera movements are jerky, shadows are not expressive. O’Hara should learn from this film: he should not use the same cinematographer again. Aunor’s performance here proves that her winning of the Urian Award for Bona is justified. She remains one of the best of our young actresses, especially in the hands of a director who understands film acting. In a film whose screenplay has undistinguished (in fact, even inane) dialogue, Aunor is able to express her emotions primarily through her silent moments. The mark of a true film actress is her behavior when she does not speak. Aunor is destined to become an all-time Best Actress. It is appropriate that Anita Linda – herself an all-time Best Actress- plays her mother in this film. The acting cannot be faulted, not even the acting of newcomer Roldan…” – Isagani R. Cruz, TV TIMES, March 15 -21, 1981 (READ MORE)

Good Karma – “…Happily, “Karma” turned out to be as good as I expected. It’s performers are first-rate – Vilma Santos, Ronaldo Valdez, Tommy Abuel, Chanda Romero, so their award-winning acting didn’t surprise me at all. The script was outstanding but even that was expected, coming from director Danny Zialcita. What impressed me was that minor parts were played by name actors. The housekeeper who appeared in one short sequence could have been played by any elderly woman but those who made the movie wanted nothing less than Etang Discher. The psychiatrist could have been played by any decent-looking man but they didn’t settle for anybody less than Vic Silayan. The male lover at the start of the story had to be acted out by Dante Rivero, that at the end by Christopher de Leon. The movie boasted of several bold scenes. Those involving Vilma weren’t much as we know for a fact that Vilma could show only so much. One scene showing Chanda was a different story. It showed her with absolutely nothing on, yet it didn’t offend anybody as it was executed in style, shot with great care. There was just one thing, which looked unnatural to me, the way in which one of the main characters killed himself. “That’s all right,” Danny assured me. “Before we shot it, we double-checked its possibility.” Reincarnation and transference are undoubtedly mind-boggling subjects but, to his utmost credit, Danny managed to present them simply, bringing them down for everybody to understand. “Bala lang yan. Katawan lang ito. Babalik at babalik kami sa mundong ito,” Dante vowed. Come back they did as they promised building the foundation of the story…” – Bob Castillo, People’s Journal Dec. 12, 1981 (READ MORE)

Post-1981 – “…For Vilma Santos, the previous year, Pakawalan Mo Ako was a huge summer hit that earned Vilma a surprised best actress in FAMAS. That year also released Ex-Wife and Hiwalay, about marital problems. Art imitating life, as there were reports that Vilma and now, ex-husband, Edu Manzano were having some marital problems. But Vilma as trooper as she is, any personal troubles were not publicly noticeable as she goes on with her work, business as usual. Also, Vilma gave birth to her eldest son Luis “Lucky” Manzano. By December of 1981, her film festival entry, Karma earned her another surprise best actress trophy after the FAMAS gave her the nod for Pakawalan Mo Ako. In unrelated news, the entertainment industry were shocked to found that matinee idol, Alfie Anido died on Dec 31st. Like the death of Julie Vega and Rico Yan, it is still unknown the reason behind Anido’s death. She’s determined to make 1982 another successful year. She released a total of six films, out of six; two were certified record breakers, “Sinasamba Kita (I Idolized You)” released in August and “Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan? (How Many Times is Once),” released in November, both produced by Viva Films. The other four films (Relasyon, T-Bird at Ako, Never Ever Say Goodbye, and Haplos) were mild hits. All of her hard work paid off because as early as January of the 1983 she was already poised to reap major awards. Meanwhile for Nora Aunor, 1982 were a mixed bag of mild hits and failed opportunities. “Mga Uod at Rosas,” her collaboration with Lorna Tolentino and director Romy Zusara produced mixed reviews from the critics. Her excellent performance did not help as the film were just mild hit with the audience. Her follow up films, “Annie Sabungera” and “Palenke Queen” both comedies also didn’t do well at the box office making the expectation from her next film higher, as she teamed-up with the hottest star of 1982, her closest rival, Vilma Santos in Danny Zialcita’s fast paced film, “T-bird at Ako.” T-bird’s high expectation wasn’t realized as the film earned just a modest income. By December, all eyes were focused again on Nora and her most ambitious project to date, Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” produced by the Imee Marcos’ Experimental Cinema of the Philippines. The film was an entry to the Metro Manila film festival. Nora Aunor was again proclaimed the “queen of local festival” as she won her third Metro Manila Film Festival best actress. Nora’s momentum was rising and she was conditioned to make some serious dent in the following year’s award giving seasons. Critics were all going “gagah” with Aunor’s gigantic performance as Elsa. They said, Himala was very effective in communicating its film’s message, it has moving moments and raw power….” – RV (READ MORE)

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